A Texas couple could be facing murder charges after new evidence revealed their 15-month-old baby suffered trauma and showed signs of sexual assault prior to her death.
Jamie Petronella, 23, called 911 May 3 after her child, Sunny Dakota Slade-Bort, was found unresponsive, KXAN reported.
When police arrived, they found the 15-month-old lying on the living room floor as Petronella’s boyfriend, John Lawrence, 24, tried performing CPR.
Emergency crews noticed the baby had bruises on both sides of her mouth. They also noted a large “dried wound on her face,” according to newly released court documents.
Petronella told authorities the baby was in her crib when she noticed her breaths were choppy. She stopped breathing shortly after.
When questioned about the child’s other injuries, Petronella told police her 2-year-old daughter hit the 15-month-old with a plastic chair, which caused her to fall on a table. Lawrence told police the large dry wound was a result of him trying to “rub” out the bruise, according to the affidavit.
Sunny was flown to University Hospital in San Antonio for treatment. Hospital staff determined the child had head trauma and suffered a spinal injury. They also noted there was evidence of sexual assault to the baby.
The 15-month-old’s doctor told police the child was in “danger of dying.” She died two days later.
Petronella’s two other children were taken to Lawrence’s mother’s home. The mother noticed both children, ages 2 and 3, had bruises on their bodies.
Lawrence’s mother called 911 and both children were taken to an emergency care clinic. Doctors determined that the 3-year-old boy suffered a brain bleed. The boy also had multiple bruises on his face, including a “large handprint.”
The 2-year-old girl was taken to another hospital in San Antonio. Doctors found evidence of sexual abuse. She also had bruises on her back and worms in her stool. Neither parents were at the hospital at the time, according to Lawrence’s mother.
The couple was already under investigation when the 15-month-old died. That investigation was launched by Child Protective Services after the 3-year-old suffered a broken arm.
Lawrence was a victim of sexual and physical abuse as a child, CPS records show. He was arrested in 2015 for allegedly strangling his then-girlfriend, according to court documents. Lawrence was ordered to undergo a 90-day substance abuse treatment program, but was kicked out because he was “out of control.”
The children have since been removed from Petronella’s custody. Police are still determining if the couple’s charges will be upgraded now that the 15-month-old has died, reports KSAT.